At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: email

Don’t Call Me

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how amazing the newest smartphone is. What’s important is can it actually connect you with the person you’re trying to reach? And that answer can unfortunately push you down a path of unnecessary simplicity.

Imagine this: It’s last night… 7:34pm. You’re holding onto your smartphone. You look down and see only one bar. But you go for it anyway…


“It’s Barrett.”


“Your husband!”

“I can barely hear you.”

“We just landed.”


“Jus w ntd you kno tha I can’t m do mak ak fo bap rit.
…I’ll tell you more later.”




Deep down, we all know the wonders of technology are only as good as the weakest link.

Welcome to the World of Words
Still, smartphones connect us in ways unimaginable only a few years back.
That you can talk with and sometimes see your loved ones from almost anywhere is two parsecs shy of science fiction. And now, with the prospect of augmented reality becoming a regular part of the user experience… that’s mind blowing.

So, it’s ironic that email and especially texting continue to maintain their dominant roles during smartphone use. As a result, the near lost art of writing has experienced an amazing renaissance.

In fact, it’s absolutely the new normal.
I know that so many of you would regularly pass on the rigors of a phone call when you can ‘more easily’ text someone.

It’s generational.
I don’t mean to generalize, but younger folks don’t dig talking on the phone so much.

Ring, Ring
That’s so weird.
Aren’t we genetically wired to communicated via voice?

Of course, I love the art of the phone call. It provides plenty of emotional context, which is absent throughout the act of texting.
(Though using emojis does help.)

And think of all that incessant back and forth of an email chain, often over the course of hours or days. A 30-second phone call would get the same results.

And remember, your highly-evolved smartphone is not as limited as your grandfather’s Ma Bell indestructible monster. With mobile video enabled technologies like Skype and Apple’s FaceTime, you can enjoy the purity of non-verbal communication cues to help you stay totally in sync with your phone buddy. It’s almost like being in the same room.

Why wouldn’t you want to reach out and touch someone?

Well, there’s one problem…

What Did You Just Say?
If you don’t have access to a strong connection, the value proposition of a phone call falls apart pretty quickly…

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it is having a conversation with someone on a spotty cell connection.
Understanding one out of every three words just doesn’t cut it.
And adding video into the equation is immediately hopeless.
You get the first video frame or two, and that’s about it.
Then the call crashes.

Conversely, getting a simple text out into the ether over a mediocre connection feels downright glorious.

Keep it simple. Get it done.
The pleasantries can wait till next time…

The Frustration-Free Moment
Our nationwide cellular networks still have their holes, even in metropolitan areas.
And calling from inside thick tall buildings or moving metal cars doesn’t help much.

The truth is…
Smartphones can’t yet mimic the magic of a Starfleet communicator on the prescient ‘Star Trek.’
(You can’t really have a crystal clear conversation from inside a Horta’s cave with your starship in standard orbit above Janus IV.)

There are limits…

Texting is Bulletproof
So maybe millennials are onto something. Maybe this explosion of texting is not about shunning basic human interaction.
(Though I think that’s a part of it.)

It’s about efficiency.
And accuracy.

Transferring simple words in easily-sent data packets.
And if there’s a sliver of a bar of coverage… the text will probably get through.

What’s so bad with that?

Just the Facts, Ma’am!
So, as much as I still love making an old-fashioned phone call, I’ve got to admit that when you’re on the go, texting is the clear leader for straightforward communication.
(As long as you’re not driving!)

When you just care about getting the facts across, it takes all the frustration out of the equation.

Sure… you’ll lose all the personal touches of a phone conversation.
But how hard is it to interpret a smiley face emoji?

The truth is… these days, I text all of the time.

And sometimes… do I prefer sending a text rather than having to spend a few minutes on the phone with someone?


My Mind to Your Mind
There’s no foolproof way to ensure 100% accuracy when communicating with someone from any distance beyond 4-6 feet.
(And even that’s not always perfect)

But it’s ironic that in a world overflowing with communications technologies, we often feel more disconnected than ever.

The power of those little, silent digital words can only accomplish so much.

Until we master the Vulcan Mind Meld, we’ll have to struggle along as best we can.

Ten Tech Tips You’ve Missed

Want to jump start your personal tech engine? Here are ten ways to tune up your life with all that pesky technology you’ve got to deal with…

Want to jump start your personal tech engine? Here are ten ways to tune up your life with all that pesky technology you’ve got to deal with…

At Home with Tech is designed to provide a regular stream of tech tips to help you navigate your busy day to day. Unfortunately, I know that life can sometimes get in the way of this blog’s information exchange.

But don’t worry…

I’ve reviewed ten of my best ‘how-to’ tech tips that might have fallen off of your radar and repackaged the links here for easy consumption.
(Your smartphone, computer, digital camera, email, and home printer will all thank you!)


How to Never Pay for Your Printer Ink Cartridges

How to Help Your Computer Survive Software Updates

How to Reanimate a Dead Eye in Your Photo

How to Handle a Lost Email

How to Find Parking Salvation with PayByPhone

How to Take More Vacation with Less Tech

How to Bypass a Frozen Ticket Touchscreen

How to Boost Your Smartphone’s Signal Strength

How to Give Your HDTV More HDMI Inputs

How Your Email Can Help Group-Think Succeed

“Bonus Tip!”
(If you liked the photo above…)
How to Make a Photomosaic

Five Tech Tips to Keep Your Life in Order

Is this mound of forgotten flash memory a sign of clutter or organization? Well, it depends on what you’ve previously done with the digital files. That’s where the battle to maintain some digital harmony in your life must be fought…

Is this mound of forgotten flash memory a sign of clutter or organization? Well, it depends on what you’ve previously done with the digital files. That’s where the battle to maintain some digital harmony in your life must be fought…

Don’t let cold spring breezes freeze your good intentions to get organized.
For many, the annual cleaning ritual is about to begin. So I propose it’s also a perfect time to tidy up some of your zeroes and ones. Just because your digital files don’t take up a lot of physical space doesn’t mean they’re not cluttering up your life!

Delete Half of Your Email
Have you lost an important email recently? If so, I bet you’ve got too much hanging around.

Let’s face it… you don’t need to hold onto most of your personal email. Much of it is probably unwanted marketing messages anyway.
(Usually from companies you naively gave your email address to in the first place)

And if you’ve got thousands of unread emails stacked up, that’s also a sign it’s time to thin out your in-box.

My favorite way to keep the job manageable is to simply sort by sender, select huge email chunks, and then delete away.
Don’t be shy…
(And it feels so good!)

Organize Your New Family Photo Files at Least Once a Week
There’s really only one way manage the hundreds of photos you’re likely snapping a month:

  • You’ve got to regularly go through them on your computer and organize them into content buckets.
  • And to be really effective, you’ve got to delete the mediocre pics.
    (They’re never going to get any better!)

I think rolling up your sleeves once a week should do it.
Here are a few tips on getting the task done.

Buy a New SD Memory Card for Your Camera
Have you realized that SD cards have become so inexpensive?

Case in point:
On Amazon, I found this
16GB Class 10 SDHC SanDisk flash memory card for $8.10.

Originally, the magic of digital photography was the mind-blowing concept that it didn’t cost you anything to snap a photo. You’d just delete the older photos on the card and your camera could keep on going… forever.

But no matter how much memory your card’s got, it does eventually run out of space.
(Especially if you like recording videos)
Because who’s really got the time to pay attention to how many megs are left?

It takes some ongoing effort to delete the hundreds and sometimes thousands of photo and video files… unless you want to simply clear the whole card and start over.

I don’t know about you, but time is always something I need more of…

Have you ever found yourself struggling to quickly delete the old photos off your camera’s SD card right before you want to capture a priceless moment?
(It’s maddening.)

So here’s a radical concept…

  • Don’t try to keep up with your nearly filled memory card. When it’s time, just replace it.

It’s okay to buy new SD cards every so often to make sure your camera is ready for action. Sure, that’s a bit wasteful, but it’s not like having a tiny stack of old SD cards lying around is going to mess up the house.

Plus, SD cards don’t last forever. So it’s probably a good idea to recycle out the older ones every couple of years.
(You really don’t want to wait until a card with priceless photos turns into an unreadable plastic square.)

Update the Software on Your Computer
Pop Quiz:
How often have you dropped what you’re doing to comply with this message on your screen: “Updates Ready to Install.”


Nobody wants to take the time to update your software.
But you’ve got to do it!

I’m not saying you should be the first to install an update.
(That can also lead to problems…)

But if you wish to keep your computer healthy, updated software should be part of your plan…

Get Rid of Your Old VHS Tapes
If you haven’t yet converted all that old content off your dusty tapes into digital files, it can’t be that important.
VHS is dead tech. Let it all go…

Enough said.

Bonus Tip!
Remember that new piece of tech you recently bought?
Register it online now, while you still know where the receipt is!
You don’t want to lose out on the manufacturer’s warrantee…

The Endless List
If you’ve got all of these digital projects already handled, congratulations.
(You must not be the parent of young children.)

So let me throw one more task onto your ‘to do’ list.
Are you caught up on making all those photo albums you’ve been meaning to create online?

Uh huh.

Get to work…!

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